As plans are being made to move teaching online next month, health experts have stressed that it is crucial students follow new Government guidance in order to protect their families and surrounding communities.
New guidance published yesterday says they will leave on staggered departure dates between December 3 and 9, with as many as possible taking coronavirus tests before travelling.
Learning is expected to move online by December 9 so students can continue their education back home.
With universities expected to be the driving force behind the plans – setting the staggered dates and working with local public health officials and transport operators, Shropshire's education chiefs today said they were making the necessary arrangements and expect it to be a "significant logistical operation".
Dr David Llewellyn, vice-chancellor at Harper Adams University near Newport, said the Government's latest guidance was currently being reviewed and students are being urged to continue complying with the restrictions during the national lockdown.
He said: “Harper Adams University is currently reviewing the latest guidance and making arrangements to move teaching online in December in accordance with Government requirements.
"The number of positive cases amongst our student population is currently very low, so we have been urging everyone to continue complying with the national restrictions in place until December 2, to allow our students to return home whilst minimising the risk of transmission to their friends and families.”
'Significant logistical operation'
Paul Johnson, head of centre at University Centre Shrewsbury, said the guidelines were being discussed in depth by a number of different departments at the institution.
He added: “Universities are complex organisations, and the Government’s lifting of restrictions to allow students to travel home for Christmas will be a significant logistical operation.
“The university is now working towards ensuring all appropriate measures are taken to safeguard students, staff and the public in line with the definitive guidance from the Government and Public Health England.”
The Government says universities in areas of high prevalence will be prioritised for the mass testing of students.
Those who test positive before their departure will have to remain in self-isolation for 10 days.
Universities have also been asked to provide additional help and practical support to students, particularly those who remain on campus over Christmas.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries says the mass movement of students presents a significant challenge during the coronavirus outbreak, but added: "The measures will help minimise that risk and help students get home to their families as safely as possible for Christmas.
"It is crucial that students follow the guidance in order to protect their families and the communities they return to."
Students at Welsh universities will also be asked to undergo rapid coronavirus testing before returning home for Christmas.
They will be asked to minimise their social contact with others in the run up to the end of term and told to sign up for the new Lateral Flow Test pilot from their university if they plan on travelling home.
The self-administered test delivers results in 30 minutes and uses a nose and throat swab.